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After students vote to abolish ‘Colonials’ nickname, GWU administration stays silent on issue

If George Washington University administrators have an opinion on a recent vote by students to get rid of the school’s longtime Colonials nickname they’re in no mood to talk about it.

Requests for interviews by The College Fix sent to numerous campus administrators to ask if campus leaders would honor the student vote outcome went unanswered.

Messages sent to the president, vice president and media relations offices were ignored. The office for diversity, equity and community engagement promised a reply last week but has yet to provide one.

With that, it’s unknown at this time whether campus leaders support the vote’s outcome or will agree to go along with it and abolish the Colonials nickname. Students do not have the ultimate authority to change it.

A slim majority of George Washington University students voted in late March to dump the school’s “Colonials” nickname, represented as a mascot of President George Washington.

According to the university’s website, the nickname “Colonials” came into use in 1926, and “George” has been its mascot since 1948.

But students “voted narrowly in favor of a controversial referendum calling on GW to abandon the Colonials nickname, with 54 percent of voters supporting the effort,” the Hatchet campus newspaper reported at the time.

The issue has been a hot topic, with a student-led petition in 2018 declaring the moniker offensive.

“The use of ‘Colonials,’ no matter how innocent the intention, is received as extremely offensive by not only students of the University, but the nation and world at large,” the petition read. “The historically, negatively-charged figure of Colonials has too deep a connection to colonization and glorifies the act of systemic oppression.”

The petition had suggested alternatives such as hippos, riverhorses and revolutionaries.

Right after the vote, administrators gave a tepid response to Inside Higher Ed: “GW students are actively engaged in the world and passionate about the issues important to them, as seen in this recent student vote. University administration has been following the conversation about the university’s nickname. We respect the opinions of our students, however we have no specific comment on the referendum at this time.”

More recently, in mid-May, the incoming student association president pledged that a campus conversation about the controversial mascot will take place in the coming school year.

“Over the next academic year, I am excited to work with student leaders to facilitate discussions between students, alumni, staff, and administrators as we consider available options to move forward. Should legislation be brought to the full Senate floor in the next academic year, I will encourage students and members in the GW community to reach out to Senators during their office hours to ensure that your concerns are represented by our elected student leaders,” Ashley Le stated.

MORE: GWU students approve measure to dump Colonials nickname

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About the Author
Brittany Slaughter -- Liberty University